Thursday, April 11, 2024


 The aptly named Rockpiper made a brief (eight hour) visit to Halifax today April 11, en route to Sheet Harbour, NS.

 The ship functions as a pipe burying vessel, by the accurate placement of aggregate on the sea bottom. The material is used as a bedding and a covering for pipelines, transmission lines, wind turbine pilings, communication cables or as ballasting for offshore installations. It does its work by means of a 700 mm (2.29 feet)  diameter flexible "fall pipe" and can discharge at a rate up to 2,000 tonnes per hour. It can also side dump if needed.

Using dynamic positioning, controlling the ship's six thrusters with the aid of satellite navigation, the ship can place material in precise locations in 700 meters of water (which can be extended to 1,500 meters (4926 feet)).

Built in 2012 by Keppel Singmarine, it is a 30,601 gt, 27,367 dwt ship which can carry 24,000 tonnes of aggregate (or 15,500 m3). Depending on the nature of the project, it can carry up to 60 persons.

This will be the ship's second visit to Sheet Harbour - it was there March 28-29 - when it presumably loaded aggregate material. Now operated by the Port of Sheet Harbour Agency a QSL [Quebec Stevedoring Ltd] company, Sheet Harbour has extensive bulk material handling facilities and large storage areas.

Although Sheet Harbour is a non-compulsary port for pilotage, ships sometimes embark a pilot off Halifax, and sometimes a tug from Halifax or from Point Tupper will go to assist ships.

 Rockpiper's owner is Royal Boskalis Westminster, the huge Dutch dredging and marine construction company, operating world wide. In 2022 they opened their United States headquarters in Providence, RI, (Boskalis Offshore Contracting LLC) as a strategic location for their work on several offshore wind farm projects for Ørsted - Eversource. The ship's last port of call was Providence, and it will be returning to that area with its latest cargo.

Thanks to United State cabotage laws, (commonly called the Jones Act) internationally registered ships cannot trade between US ports. However this ship (which is flagged in Cyprus) can carry Canadian aggregate to the United States and unload the material, without penalty. 

Other Canadian ports are benefiting from that situation as staging and assembly ports for wind farm projects in the US offshore. Halifax's IEL dock in Woodside was used as the staging area last year for the Vineyard wind project, but that activity has now moved to Sydney, NS where the large coal pier laydown area is ideal for the work. Now renamed Atlantic Canada Bulk Terminals, it is using its 500m long pier and 40HA of land for material handling of various sorts. There are currently 15 monopiles on site for the Vineyard project. Argentia, NL is also in the picture with Boskalis and Mammoet assembling monopiles there.


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